Since our founding 138 years ago, Children’s Home & Aid has been a strong advocate for children and their families. Our 2021 policy agenda, released today, continues that commitment.
If we have learned anything from the events of the past year, it is the direct threat poverty and scarce resources are to child and family wellbeing, which is too often predicted by the zip code where you live or by the color of your skin. Therefore, we must be forceful advocates to dismantle systems that perpetuate inequality and racism. Our policy agenda is designed to support robust policies which are antiracist, equitable, and directed at creating social capital, economic mobility, and systems designed to insure children, families, and communities thrive.
Our policy agenda is driven by these 5 goals:
- Strengthening Families and Communities
- Increasing Opportunities for Older Youth and Young Adults
- Ensuring Families Have Access to High-Quality Early Care and Education
- Enhancing Children and Young Adults Access to Mental Health Services
- Giving Our Programs The Resources to Succeed
I want to highlight just two examples of the work we’re doing to support this policy agenda.
In these difficult times, we know families need more resources to succeed. That is why we have partnered with the Coalition to Make the Earned Income Credit Work to expand the state Earned Income Credit. Modeled from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, the EIC has been providing tax breaks for low income families for years. Yet, for many Illinois families, they are unable to access this valuable resource. Over a two-year period, the proposed legislation would expand the EIC to young workers ages 18-25, workers over the age of 65, ITIN filers, and qualified caregivers. This would allow an additional 500,000 Illinois families access to the credit, improving their economic security and putting more cash in the hands of those who need it the most.
We also recognize the need to promote opportunities for those youth already involved in the foster care system. While 73 percent of high school seniors have their driver’s license, that number plummets for older youth in care due to the constraints of the child welfare system. Not only is driving a necessary life skill but learning to drive is a quintennial part of the teenage experience. Plus, multiple studies have shown that those who learn how to drive early are less likely to be involved in accidents or receive tickets. Over thirty states actively support youth in care in some way in learning this vital skill. We are promoting policies that remove barriers and provide financial support for youth in care to earn their driver’s license.